Gusty winds hammer Keys, Florida’s East Coast

Keys wind gusts

Winds were gusting up to 39 mph in the Keys on Thursday due to a tight pressure gradient between high pressure to the north and low pressure to the south. Windy weather was in the forecast through Sunday. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Top wind gusts along South Florida’s East Coast (and inland) as of Friday morning: Fowey Rocks, Biscayne Bay, 39 mph; Sunrise, 38 mph; Tamiami Executive Airport, Kendall, 38 mph; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Aiprort, 37 mph; Miami International Airport, 36 mph; Palm Beach International Airport, 35 mph; Immokalee, 35 mph;

East-Central: Melbourne, 32 mph; and Fort Pierce, 31 mph. Winds were calmer on Florida’s West Coast and in North Florida.

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MORE ON 2019: Annual average temperatures in East-Central Florida for each year since 2015 have been among the top 10 warmest on record for cities from Daytona Beach to Fort Pierce, the National Weather Service in Melbourne said in a report posted Thursday.

“Extreme warmth [occurred] at times, especially into February and the fall season,” meteorologists said. “Most notably, Vero Beach had their warmest September and October on record. It was also the warmest October on record for Daytona Beach and Orlando.”

Check out the full report for complete details.

Separately, Weather Underground discussed a NOAA report that said Florida had its second-hottest year and the U.S. had its second-wettest year on record in 2019.

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PONDERING THE PACIFIC: ENSO neutral conditions are expected in the Tropical Pacific through spring and perhaps through summer as well, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said in an analysis released Thursday.

The gave neutral conditions — neither El Niño, abnormally warm waters, nor La Niña, abnormally cool waters — a 60 percent chance of lasting through spring and a 50 percent chance of lasting through summer. Neutral conditions currently prevail.

It’s an important forecast in terms of the 2020 hurricane season. Under El Niño, tropical activity in the Atlantic is suppressed due to increased upper-level wind shear, while La Niña is usually accompanied by above-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic.

When El Niño conditions ended last summer, hurricane activity spiked, producing such storms as the deadly Hurricane Dorian.

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FLORIDA DROUGHT UPDATE: Drought conditions faded throughout Florida after a wet December, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday. Moderate Drought lingered, though, in the Central Panhandle and Moderate Drought was reduced to Abnormally Dry conditions in the Everglades.

2019 wrap, decade wrap, and what Mark Twain (reportedly) said …

WEEKEND COLD FRONT UPDATE: Three days out, Sunday morning forecast temperatures are on track to be the coolest since early December, as per the National Weather Service.

This is the time of the year to keep a look out for those Polar Express fronts that leave tourists grumbling and locals searching the far reaches of their back closet to find warmer sweaters or jackets. It doesn’t look like anything too radical at this point, and some people do like a chilly day or two.

But NWS forecasters in Miami posted this caveat: “Sunday afternoon, values could struggle to reach 70. Those with agricultural interests may want to keep a close eye on the forecast as trends could change.”

off15_temp

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

In any event, temps should bounce back relatively quickly, and the new January forecast from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, released Tuesday, calls for overall above normal temperatures in Florida.

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DECEMBER WRAP: The month goes into the books wet and warm across most of the peninsula, as well as the Keys and North Florida. Miami crossed the finish line with temperatures 3 degrees above normal — there were 22 days with highs in the 80s and the high only failed to reach 70 once, on December 3 (68). Precipitation was 4.39 inches above average.

Key West was 3.9 degrees above average and finished December with a 5.49-inch rainfall surplus.

Orlando was 4.9 degrees above average with a rainfall surplus of 2.37 inches.

Tampa was 4.5 degrees above normal with precipitation 2.02 inches on the plus side.

Jacksonville topped out 5.4 degrees above normal with a 2.06-inch rainfall surplus.

Tallahassee was an exception to the precipitation trend in Florida — it was a bone-dry fall with the exception of October — by turning in a rainfall shortfall of 0.44 of an inch. Temperatures were still 4.6 degrees above normal, however.

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2019 WRAP: In Miami, every month of the year ended with above normal temperatures with the exception of January, which were down 0.2 of a degree.

In Orlando, every single month of 2019 had temperatures above the 30-year average, and February was wildly out of whack, with temps 7.1 degrees above normal.

Ditto for Tampa, except November temperatures came in dead-on normal.

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DECADE WRAP: Floridians spent some of the 2010s dodging catastrophe, managing to side-step the brunt of hurricanes Sandy (2012), Matthew (2016), and Dorian (2019). The Keys weren’t as lucky with Irma (2017) and the panhandle was clobbered by Michael (2018).

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DECADE LOOK-AHEAD: Lots of people want to compare the new decade to The Roaring Twenties of the last century. It has a catchy ring to it and portends excitement. But history doesn’t repeat, it only rhymes, according to Mark Twain.

Besides, the 1920s had some horrific hurricanes, including the 1926 Miami Hurricane, the 1928 hurricane that killed thousands in the Glades, and the last major hurricane to slam Tampa in 1921 (also known as the 1921 Tarpon Springs Hurricane).

I have a feeling that the big story of the new decade in Florida will be accelerating climate change and the accompanying sea level rise that’s already forcing government officials to make tough decisions in the Keys.

Of course, as always, expected the unexpected.

Jacksonville, Tallahassee notch record highs; 2019 begins with a report from the outer limits

Third warmest year Key West

SIZZLING IN THE KEYS: Key West had its third-warmest year on record in 2018, including its warmest fall, the National Weather Service reported. July, September and October were the warmest on record, and 62 daily temperature records were set or tied — with 17 record highs and an amazing 45 record warm lows. Data in Key West go all the way back to 1872, with annual temperature records since 1874. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

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The new year started off on the right foot Tuesday with 80s up and down the peninsula, and a pair of record highs in North Florida.

Jacksonville broke a record high with 83 degrees, beating the old mark of 81 set back in 1967. And it was 81 in Tallahassee, which broke the old record of 79 set in 1989.

The warmest temperature reported by the National Weather Service in its state summary was 85 degrees in Marathon. There were some upper 80s in interior areas of South Florida including a high of 88 in Immokalee.

The warmth is a result of high pressure that’s been hanging on over the state since late last week. It’s expected to remain in place, delivering three more days of beach weather, before a cold front sweeps through on Saturday. But nothing super-cold is on the horizon — temperatures should return to around normal for this time of the year, according to forecasters.

PQPFStormTotalQPFWeb1
Up to a quarter of an inch of rain may fall on South Florida’s East Coast as a cold front rolls through on Saturday, the National Weather Service says. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Don’t expect any drought-busting rains from the front. December rainfall totals in South Florida were well below normal — West Palm Beach had a monthly deficit of almost 2 inches. So, drought conditions are likely to hang on.

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NEWS FROM OUTSIDE THE NEIGHBORHOOD: The most interesting thing about NASA’s successful New Year’s Day fly by of the far-flung mini-planet Ultima Thule is not the new data on the object’s shape or composition, but the simple fact that the space agency is able to analyze something 4 billion miles away. For comparison purposes, the moon is about 239,000 miles from Earth, and Mars is about 140 million miles away. These are, relatively speaking, neighborhood stops compared to Ultima Thule.

The fly by occurred just after midnight on New Year’s Eve, but it took six hours for the initial data to reach Earth traveling at the speed of light, The New York Times says.

Soon-to-be-arriving photos should be interesting, since they were taken from a distance of just 2,200 miles by NASA’s spacecraft, New Horizons, which was launched back in 2006 on a mission to explore the solar system.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m really liking this 2019 thing so far,” delighted mission investigator S. Alan Stern said at a news conference on Tuesday.

2018 Florida weather in review: wet, warm and wild

Michael_Overview

(Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

The direct hit by near-Category 5 Hurricane Michael on October 10 in the Florida panhandle dominated weather headlines in 2018. And it set the stage for an unusually wet end of the year in North Florida.

Michael made landfall as a high-end Category 4 with sustained winds of 155 mph and a minimum pressure of 919 mb. “The storm caused catastrophic damage from wind and storm surge, particularly in the Panama City Beach to Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas areas,” the National Weather Service says in a special report on the late-season storm.

“One of the hardest hit locations was from Mexico Beach to Indian Pass where 9 to 14 feet of peak storm surge inundation was observed. In addition, wave action caused even higher total water values and this resulted in waves destroying the second story of multiple buildings in Mexico Beach.”

Click here to scroll through 75 incredible photos showing the storm’s devastating impacts.

The year went out unusually wet in the panhandle as well. Tallahassee broke a 111-year-old rainfall record in December with an amazing 15.77 inches — easily busting the 1907 record of 12.78 inches.

Apalachicola also set a rainfall record with 12.08 inches, beating the old record of 9.68 inches set in December 1986.

Here are some of the 2018 major weather highlights from Tallahassee and other major Florida cities:

TALLAHASSEE: Plus-3.0 for overall December temperatures; plus-11.87 rainfall.
Warmest 2018 temp: 98 on June 20.
Coolest: 20 on January 18.

Eight months had above normal temperatures, three had below normal temperatures and one (April) had normal temperatures.

Wettest day: 3.38 inches on December 2.

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TAMPA: Plus 2.3-degrees for December; plus-6.22 inches rainfall.
Warmest 2018 temp: 96 on September 20.
Coolest: 29 on January 18.

Ten months had above normal temperatures, two had below normal temperatures.

Wettest day: 3.52 inches on December 20 (3.31 inches fell on January 28).

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2018 extremes CFL

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

ORLANDO: Plus 1.7 degrees for December; plus-4.22 inches rainfall.
Warmest 2018 temperature: 95 on September 27.
Coolest: 27 on January 18.

Seven months of above normal temperatures, four with below normal temperatures, and one (August) with normal temperatures.

Wettest day: 3.65 inches on December 20.

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MIAMI: plus 1.4 degrees for December; – 0.46 of an inch rainfall;
Warmest 2018 temp: 94 on five days in June, July and August.
Coolest: 44 on January 4 and 18.

Six months had above normal temperatures, six had below normal temperatures.

Wettest day: 3.6 inches on May 31.

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KEY WEST: Plus 4 degrees for December; – 0.32 rainfall.
Warmest 2018 temp: 95 on September 20.
Coolest: 53 on January 18.

Eight months had above normal temperatures, four had below normal temperatures.

Wettest day: 3.41 inches on May 25.

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Expect some official 2018 analyses from the National Weather Service to appear over the next few days.

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Jan forecast

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

REVISED OUTLOOK: The new year has started out warm around the state, and toasty temps will continue late into the week before more normal early January temperatures take hold.

Super long-range forecast models call for below normal temperatures in Florida from around the third week of January into possibly the first two weeks of February. But since the first two weeks may feature above-normal temps, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has put Florida into an “Equal Chances” category for the month.

In Miami the normal high is 76-77 during the second half of January, with lows around 60. Record lows are generally in the 30s. In Tampa normal highs are around 70-71 in the second half of the month with lows in the low 50s. In Orlando, normal highs are 71-72 with a low of around 50.

2017: Warmest year on record in Melbourne; second-warmest in Daytona, Sanford and Miami

CFL 2017 weather

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

With another cold snap on Florida’s doorstep this week, it’s tempting to overlook the excessive heat that characterized 2017, including the brutally hot summer in many areas of the peninsula.

Miami had its hottest July on record, for example.

Hurricane Irma overwhelmed most of the weather news coverage, and understandably so. But the record and near-record warmth is likely to be a story that keeps popping up from year-to-year.

To wit: 2017 was the warmest year on record in Melbourne, the National Weather Service said Monday. It was the second-warmest year on record in Daytona Beach and in Sanford.

The average overall temperature in Melbourne of 75.6 degrees was 3.2 above average, breaking the previous warmest year — 2015 — by two-tenths of a degree.

Miami had its second-warmest year on record, just a tenth of a degree shy of tying 2015 for the warmest, the NWS said Monday.

“It appears our cool stretch to end the year was enough to knock Miami out of the tie for warmest year,” the agency’s Christopher Fisher said in a note to the media.

December was unusually warm in Florida from tip to top, with only two exceptions: Fort Lauderdale and Fort Pierce, which were slightly below average for the month.

Tampa was the most wildly out of whack in December, with temperatures 4.2 degrees above average. Fort Myers was plus-2.5 degrees. In North Florida, Jacksonville was 2.9 degrees above average and Daytona Beach checked in at plus-2.3 degrees.

Almost every month of this year saw top 10 warmth at West-Central observation sites, with the exception of October and November, the NWS in Tampa said.

Other December overall temps: Miami plus-1.2 degrees; Fort Lauderdale, minus-0.8; West Palm Beach, plus-0.8; Naples plus-1.6; Key West, plus-1.3; Marathon plus-1.4; Orlando plus-1.8; Vero Beach plus-1.3; and Gainesville plus-1.6.

What might we expect in 2018? Probably more of the same.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center publishes temperature anomaly forecasts for the upcoming year and beyond, and the forecast for 2018 is for above normal temperatures in Florida every single month of the year. That doesn’t mean we won’t have a week or two with below normal temps, but the overall pattern should continue.

SON temps forecast

(Credit: NOAA/ CPC)

In fact, the CPC’s September-November forecast is for above-average temperatures everywhere in the U.S., from coast-to-coast and top-to=bottom.

The CPC issued its January forecast Sunday and — despite the cold snap expected to weigh down temperatures through next weekend — forecasters still expect overall temps in South Florida to come in above-average.

off15_temp

(Credit: NOAA/ CPC)

Record-shattering 2017 hurricane season leaves trail of mayhem and misery

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Three Atlantic hurricanes were lined up on September 8 . From left to right: Hurricane Katia, which made landfall in Mexico; Hurricane Irma, which pounded Florida two days later; and Hurricane Jose, nearing the Lesser Antilles. (Image credit: NOAA)

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season heads for the history books Thursday, finally gone but never forgotten.

It ends with record property damage of $368 billion, and at hundreds of deaths — perhaps many more since Hurricane Maria took such a toll on Puerto Rico that the number of fatalities remains in dispute.

The season’s emotional toll will remain incalculable.

The final total of 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and six major hurricanes made 2017 much above average, but numbers alone don’t come close to describing the trail of catastrophe it left in its wake. The peak of the season from late August to the end of September was so brutal and other years — even the infamous 2005 — pale in comparison.

September generated the most major hurricane days — 17.5 — of any calendar month in the Atlantic on record,  Colorado State University hurricane researcher Philip Klotzbach said.

The 2017 season “will end up a top 10 season by most tropical cyclone metrics,” Klotzbach  said on Twitter. The year had 19.25 major hurricane days — 494 percent over the median of 3.9 from 1981 to 2010, he said, and named storm days (91.25) was 152 percent of the median.

September broke records for named storm days (53.5); hurricane days (40.25); major hurricane days (18); and Accumulated Cyclone Energy (175), he said.

It was a busy early season — but pretty much par for the course — until mid-August, when some eye-popping tropical activity began. Tropical Storm Emily did cause some havoc in Florida when it made landfall on the West-Central peninsula with winds of 45 mph, and caused a tornado near Bradenton. Emily also brought heavy rain to parts of Florida’s East Coast.

But the real misery train began pulling out of the station on August 24, the 25th anniversary of Category 5 Hurricane Andrew’s strike on South Florida. August 24 was the day Tropical Storm Harvey began rapidly intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico’s Bay of Campeche. It reached Category 4 intensity late the next day.

Forecast models suggested an almost unbelievable scenario was about to unfold: Harvey would make landfall on the Texas Coast as a powerful Category 4 storm, and then stall out for days as atmospheric steering currents collapsed.

AccuWeather summed things up with the headline: “Hurricane Harvey poised to unleash flooding disaster on Texas into early next week.”

“Some communities could be under water for days,” the commercial forecasting service said.

Harvey was still a named storm 117 hours after landfall, as it drifted back into the Gulf of moved toward the Louisiana coast. Up to 60 inches of rain was recorded in several parts of coastal Texas, and Houston’s airport officially measured 37 inches.

The season’s follow-up act — Hurricane Irma — looked like trouble from the moment it formed far out in the Atlantic. Major forecast models predicted as early as August 31 that Irma would hit the Florida Keys or peninsula.

Irma reached Category 5 strength as it battered the Caribbean, and both Barbuda and Saint Martin were reported to be 95 percent destroyed by the storm.

It made landfall on Cudjoe Key on September 10 with 130 mph winds and then clobbered Marco Island off Florida’s Southwest Coast with 115 mph winds.

On Saturday, September 9, the National Hurricane Center put the entire coast of the Florida peninsula — from Jacksonville on the East Coast down through the Keys and up the West Coast to just south of Tallahassee — under a Hurricane Warning. Even the Florida panhandle was under a Hurricane Watch or Tropical Storm Watch.

Thousands of residents evacuated as the NHC forecast a major hurricane to slide up Florida’s East Coast, then up the spine of the state, and finally up the West Coast. But by the time the track was set for the West Coast, Florida’s roads were already clogged in a nightmarish evacuation scene that lasted for several days.

irma-peak-gust-keys
(Credit: NWS-Key West)

The highest wind gust from Irma was measured at 120 mph in Big Pine Key, but Irma cut a path of destruction up the entire Florida peninsula and even caused damage in Georgia as a tropical storm.

Hurricane Maria, the 10th most intense hurricane on record, devastated Dominica in the Caribbean and went on to cause catastrophic damage in Puerto Rico, where power outages are expected to continue well into next year.

Hurricane Nate made landfall on the Northern Gulf Coast as a Category 1 hurricane on October 8, and the development of Hurricane Ophelia several days later gave 2017 an unprecedented 10 hurricanes in a row.

Although the final storm — during the official season, at least — was Tropical Storm Rina — the last system to impact Florida was Tropical Storm Philippe on October 28-29. Philippe spawned a tornado near West Palm Beach and dropped more than 6 inches of rain.

“While the season was very active, it will be most remembered for several hurricanes that devastated portions of the continental United States as well as islands in the Caribbean and other parts of the tropical Atlantic,” Klotzbach said in the newly-released CSU post-season report.

“Hurricane Harvey brought epic flooding to the Houston metropolitan area, while Irma and Maria both brought devastation to islands throughout the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic.

“Irma also made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4, pummeling the Keys and bringing considerable damage to mainland Florida as well. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was also the first season on record (since 1851) to have two Category 4 hurricanes make continental United States landfall in the same year (Harvey and Irma).”

Click here to read the full analysis.

CSU will issue its 2018 hurricane season outlook on December 13.

Chilly Florida temps to rebound; Matthew named 2016 top weather story

top-weather-story

October’s close encounter with major Hurricane Matthew was the top weather story of 2016, according to the National Weather Service in Miami. See below. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

A winter chill ushered out 2016 in Florida with temperatures sinking into the 30s in interior and Central Florida and dipping into the 40s as far south as West Palm Beach.

The anticipated wind shift to the east did not occur as early as projected, leading nighttime tempeatures to take a tumble around the state.

Saturday’s apparent low was 49 in West Palm Beach. It was 54 in Miami and Fort Lauderdale and 47 in Naples.

The coolest South Florida temperatures were low 40s west of Lake Okeechobee and in inland Collier County. A 5:30 a.m. temperature of 32.5 degrees was recorded at a South Florida Water Management District observation site at the Picayune Strand State Forest east of Naples off Alligator Alley.

In North Florida, a temperature of 28 degrees was recorded in Gainesville at 7:40 a.m.

A warm-up was imminent, forecasters said, as northwest winds swing around to the east and southeast.

South Florida highs near 80 are expected through Friday.

The National Weather Service in Miami released its 2016 wrap-up Friday, citing as its top weather story of the year the near-miss of Hurricane Matthew in October.

“Fortunately for South Florida, hurricane force winds and other severe impacts remained just offshore,” analysts said. “Sustained tropical storm force winds over land were confined to eastern Palm Beach County and the immediate coast of Broward County.”

Officially, highest winds were 63 mph at the Juno Beach Pier; 51 mph at Palm Beach International Airport.

In second place was the Feb. 16 tornado outbreak. A storm system moving east from the Gulf of Mexico merged with a cold front to trigger six tornadoes in Miami Gardens, Fort Lauderdale Beach, Pompano Beach and up into Palm Beach County.

Excessive and record heat also dominated the weather news. It was the third-warmest year on record in Miami, the fourth warmest in Fort Lauderdale and the fifth warmest in West Palm Beach and Naples.

“No official NWS station recorded temperatures at or below freezing the entire year,” forecasters said.

“July was the hottest on record at West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Summer 2016 tied for the hottest on record at West Palm Beach. December will end up among the top three warmest on record.”